I was slogging away in the triple
digit Nevada heat when I received one of those phone calls we don’t
want to get, yet keep the ringer on all night so we don’t miss. A
long-time friend of mine was beaten and left in the desert. He died
in the hospital.
collapsed in the dust amid my scattered tools. I sobbed, choked on
despair. I was slammed by that irrevocable sense of loss—the
emotion of death—of some palpable, human sensitivity being ripped
away. I wanted to vomit but could only cry in the middle of a
construction job site.
co-worker offered me a ride home. I tried to make jokes—it’s my
last defense against the devastation of tragedy, but I just kept
thinking of that goofy kid, a kid who got caught up in some bad shit,
but a kid struggling to breathe, blasted by the sun, bones broken,
lips split. I couldn’t wait for the numbness that inevitably follows
such emotional output.
was all bullshit. I found out,
after about an hour, that it was somebody’s fucking prank. Never have
such diametrically opposed emotions shared space in my mind and body.
Intense rage coupled with extreme joy. The re-contextualizing of
reality brought about by a death coupled with deep shame at having
been hustled. I was a sap, a rube, a fool, and I wanted very much to
meet the author of this lie, and
have a frank and violent discussion about his
a mindfuck. I was numb the rest of the day like I’d gone to a
funeral, but I had no reason to feel that way. I’ll take this kind of
resurrection any day over the death of a friend, but believe
me: it is a thoroughly enervating experience.
say this. To those of you yet untouched by death and illness and all
the shit that breaks us or engenders empathy in the human soul, think
twice before posting some false bullshit that people might take
seriously. Think of people’s mothers if nothing else. Maybe imagine
your mother hearing that kind of news. Or imagine one of us who cares
catching up with you in person.
I did some time in Sunday school
when I was seven or eight years old, in a flaky, New Age Christian
church of some kind. I’m told I connected Jesus Christ to black widow
spiders by some no doubt tenuous thread, but I don’t recall that. I
do, however, remember the “teacher” asking us to draw a
picture of the most powerful weapon. Bam! Mushroom cloud. Atomic
bomb. Nailed it (don’t bring up nails around Jesus…) Right? Wrong.
Trick question. The dude said the most powerful weapon was love.
on how he or possibly she worded it, I think that is a terrible
analogy. The question was probably what weapon eliminates all enemies
(or at least I hope it was), but that and my mother getting remarried
are the only childhood memories I have of church. I steadfastly
rejected religion through my teen years and into my twenties, when I
began attending services here and there at different churches.
girlfriend took me to a predominantly black Baptist service, and I
enjoyed that because they played their music live and loud. The
drummer was just getting down. Once it came time to hug strangers and
tell them how much they are loved, my social anxiety sky-rocketed
well past heaven. Another time I found myself sitting alone in back
of a service listening to the guest speaker, who also painted
beautiful pictures of angels as light and color. She seemed to be
speaking directly to me—every statement applied directly to my
struggles and resonated deeply with me. I’ve always been embarrassed
by public displays of grief, yet I cried uncontrollably through the
entire service. I went to a handful of funerals, one of which
disgusted me completely, steering me back toward my anti-religious
consumed myriad kinds of hallucinogens, in sometimes dangerous
amounts. These experiences definitely broadened my mind, but they
never answered the God questions for me: Is there one or more? If so,
does it or they give a fuck about us?
2016 I joined the Satanic Temple—a non-theistic “religion”
that combats the oppression of people by Christians using the very
tools employed by the church. The Satanic Temple views Satan, as I
understand it anyway, as a literary figure symbolizing the eternal
rebel. Well, all that was right up my alley, but I don’t think that
stuff has anything to do with my beliefs concerning actual deities.
Taoism and Buddhism were/are also attractive to me because of their
lack of Gods.
Strung out, heart-broken, and damn near ready to give up, I had the good fortune to be invited to a traditional church that was totally foreign to me as well as illegal for me to attend. During the first service I experienced a presence FAR greater than myself that I can only describe as divine. Every element of that service was complexly sacred, resonating with my spirit and my life on innumerable levels. It was beyond comprehension. Afterward I felt reborn. I knew no fear. My heart had been healed. I had communed with divinity and been blessed by its touch. I’ve been allowed to attend three such services, and every one connected me to that divinity and left me feeling rejuvenated in spirit, mind, and body. The only church in which I’ve ever seen God is illegal for me to attend in a country that prides itself on its religious tolerance and freedom. Really though, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I remember the very moment I fell
in love with writing. I was young, not quite a teenager, and my
imagination was splitting the seams of my skull. I could alleviate
this pressure somewhat, as well as occupy my time alone (and I was a
lonely child), by conducting large scale battles between tiny,
imaginary soldiers. I don’t remember what these soldiers were—no
doubt gargoyles, ninja-vampires, and beasties of that nature—but I
remember seeing them vividly. I picked up on language quickly, and
soon enough was able to manifest some of that experience that had
been previously confined to my head.
first thing I remember writing that I liked was about a wizard
strolling into an encampment and making warriors drop their swords
because the hilts had grown red hot with a wizardly flourish. Pretty
cliché stuff, yes, but not to me, not at the time. To me writing
about that magic was a magic in itself. It was pure joy. I was
delighted. The possibilities were fucking intoxicating. I could
create anything I could imagine, and my imagination was snorting and
virile as a young bull.
love affair with writing has been a difficult one, however. I
remember someone in high school saying to me, with a hint of
jealousy, that writing came so easily to me. Oh, how wrong that
person was. Because I had a knack for it, I felt responsible for
developing it as much as possible. And I don’t care who you are:
learning to write well is hard. If you don’t think it is, I’d wager
you’re not pushing yourself. In fact, at times I was so focused on
trying to write well that I lost the joy of it. This magical pastime
that I thought I loved because it gave me such delight was suddenly a
maddening burden. I have always felt compelled to write, though I
have not always written. This state is one of discord—I feel guilty
about spending my time engaged in non-writing activities. My angst
builds, I berate myself for being lazy instead of just getting to
work and that spiral adds to my other spirals. Once I discovered the
sweet oblivion of alcohol it was a wrap.
always considered myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing. Kind
of like a non-practicing Christian or something I guess. When I am
writing, especially when I’m writing in a disciplined and frequent
manner, I feel like I’m utilizing my time the best I can. When I’m
not writing, I feel like I am wasting valuable time. As I approach my
mid-forties, I realize how limited that time really is, and I regret
how much of it I have squandered on hangovers and recovering from
psychotic drug binges. Regret is useless, and I don’t engage in it
often, but when I do it’s because I’ve lost time with my children or
have recently renewed my commitment to the art of writing, which had
become very difficult. So difficult I felt I’d lost the ability to do
it well, and the joy that stems from that. Watching your dreams die
is bleak indeed. However, I haven’t given up yet. I kept writing
whatever I could, sometimes just a few chicken-scratch repetitive
thoughts in a journal. If I couldn’t rub two thoughts together enough
to write due to black depression or apathy then I’d read. Reading is
brain food for writers. Eventually, I started building stories again.
Parts of them anyway.
Tonight that persistence has rewarded me. I caught a creative wave rolling out of the ether and rode that bitch with the almost-forgotten childhood joy of imagining. I’m as happy and fulfilled in this moment as I am when I spend time with my children. And bothers and sisters, it is a god damn refreshing breath from that wasteland sensation of inevitable failure. I wish each and every human being the experience of absolute joy in whatever endeavor he or she engages in (provided you’re not hurting anyone in the process—if you are I hope the world around you corrects your error and quickly). I think the planet could definitely benefit from a little more happiness, and a little less suffering. But you know, wish in one hand, shit in the other…..
Meditation tends to improve my
life in almost every aspect. Despite that fact I rarely sustain a
disciplined, consistent practice. I recently started meditating
again, and have kept up an (almost) daily practice for about two
weeks. I intend to improve my discipline and cultivate a daily
my born-again practice is essentially in it’s infancy, I had an
inspiring experience the other night. I’ve been doing a “spherical
breathing” meditation, which in the past has been interesting to
say the least. I wasn’t feeling much from the practice, but I kept
doing it because I know it works, even if I don’t feel I’m doing it
well. I’m going to sidestep the whole discussion about “successful”
meditation (some teachings affirm that each sitting is the perfect
practice.) Sometimes in the morning my mind would even drift so much
that I would stop focusing on the fourteen breaths I was doing and
start thinking/dreaming about people or being at work or other
distractions. It seems my mind doesn’t like being told what to do,
even by itself. I’ll admit that even though I don’t think one should
pursue a goal necessarily while sitting, I was becoming mildly
frustrated and decided to try a little experiment.
find little recreational value in marijuana, but I have noticed, in
the past, that it enhances, among other things, my sensitivity to the
movement of energy in my body (if this discussion is irritating my
fellow skeptics out there, I recommend breaking off now.) Due to the
availability now of high-grade yesca I usually have some around even
though I’m not even a little bit of a stoner (at least not anymore).
So I took one hit and ran through the practice twice.
second time I did the breaths, all the visualizations were far more
intense, strong enough to stimulate physical sensations, which I
associate with the movement of energy or chi in
my body. The
last breath of the technique involves moving a focused ball of energy
from one’s third chakra to one’s fourth. When I did this I had the
vivid experience of both physical and internal ascension. After the
breaths are completed, the practice involves unregulated breathing
and just being, adopting a yielding mindset, feeling sensations of
flowing energy, and fostering an emotion of complete compassion So I
did just that.
was immediately overcome with a deep sense of real fear, the origin
of which was hidden to me. In hindsight, I realized this was probably
the same fear I recognize as general angst and social anxiety. The
fear was as intense as the rest of the experience, but I resolved to
sit there, just be, and stay compassionate. I accepted whatever was
going to happen to me, whatever I was afraid of, was going to happen,
but for that one moment, I was in no danger and didn’t need anything
I didn’t have. That acceptance, which arose from compassion, soon
dissolved all fear. I realized in that moment that love and
compassion are antidotes for fear. The threat of love being lost can
cause fear, but that’s not love born of acceptance
hope this doesn’t sound like so much rambling. The experience was
profound for me, but such experiences are by their very nature
difficult, sometimes impossible, to couch in language. I think the
weed gave me a boost, inspired me some, but I know it’s not the key
for me. I repeated the experiment the next night, and had nowhere
near the same experience. I feel it’s probably best to return to as
sober a practice as I can manage. I’ve learned the hard way there are
no shortcuts to anything worth taking a lifetime to practice.
I’ve fallen in love—the real
kind of love, the step in front of a bus to save you kind of
love—four times. One of those times led to marriage (and
consequently divorce). I haven’t been able to stop loving anyone I’ve
really come to love, and not for lack of trying. For eight years
after my divorce I felt what I thought was absolute hatred for my
ex-wife. During a short sabbatical in Reno’s jail (where they’ll
leave the light on for you), I realized for the sake of my children,
I had to set that burden down. When I did I eventually saw it for
what it was: not hatred but deep emotional injury that I dressed up
as anger and tried to ignore, which is much like drawing eyes on an
abscess and pretending it’s a friendly little head growing out of
of these loves, also wounded by her past, repeatedly fled me,
believing me to be unfaithful and dishonest, which I was neither. I’m
no psychologist, but I felt like maybe because of her past, she
couldn’t bring herself to believe that I actually loved her. Perhaps
the betrayals she’d suffered so early in life and so intensely were
too much to ask any person to overcome.
I am struggling with is this: is it enough to love and be loved? I
have yet to experience a relationship lasting over four years, so I
really have no answers. Can your love for someone be a detriment, an
affliction that will harm you more than heal you in the end? And if
that is the case, is that real love? I know relationships can be bad
for our lives, but can a truly loving relationship (I mean where the
love is flowing both directions, or however many directions one is
into) be detrimental in the long term? The first example that comes
to mind is the classic abusive relationship, but I discount that
immediately because if a person is abusing his or her partner, I’d
argue the love is not flowing both directions.
is a purely philosophical discussion as far as I am concerned: right
now I am more single than Adam with all his ribs. But if one of the
three people who reads this has any answers, right or wrong, I’d love
to hear them. They might come in handy some day.
Let me flow like water sublime
rolling over and around
knowing no obstacle
only ever-changing possibility
drifting with the Tao on the tides of yang and yin
cascading into void
carving through stone itself
to a stillness so perfect
the whole world, reflected, cannot mar me
with its passage overhead
Despite what one may find in the dictionary, apparently a drabble is a story that is exactly one hundred words long, not counting the title (I don’t think.) I wrote my first drabble and submitted it, and the editor was kind enough to give me the reasons why it was not accepted. I applied the advice as best I could and revised the drabble, which I present here to you.
Jenna hated her sister more than Satan’s witches did the rising sun. She pictured that pretty, frail wretch, letting the black ache swallow her. She savaged the mane of her plastic horse with a sharp, steel comb, picturing bloody scratches scribbled across the canvas of her sister’s pale flesh. She let hatred chew on her guts, singing a malevolent lullaby. She watched as the shadows grew around her, strangling the weak light bleeding from her small, white candle. She stabbed the toy horse again and again, reveling in the cries of pain from the room next door. Her sister’s room.
Today has been an interesting
day, a kind of culmination of thoughts and energies. I’ve battled
depression all my life, even as a child. Sometimes I deal with it
well, other times, uh, not so much. I have quite a set of tools for
dealing with afflictive emotions in a healthy manner, but one of
those emotions is often apathy, and an apathetic man is not prone to
picking up tools, much less using them.
today I remembered to change the on-going negative dialogue in my
head to a positive one. I spent some time meditating about a goal I
want to achieve soon, and then I took action to cement my intention.
I felt significantly better. Part of that meditation was remembering
things and people I am grateful to have in my life. Gratitude is so
powerful to combat feeling low—remembering all that you’ve been
blessed with rather than focusing on what you think you need. Chances
are, if you’re reading this, you probably have everything you need.
If you don’t, I hope you soon do.
with this positive thinking was a martial arts class I attended. I
was uke in an Aikido
demonstration this weekend, and the person performing the techniques
in the demonstration also taught the class tonight. My friend and
sempai says, “Martial
arts are a metaphor for life.” I believe this to be true: the
principles taught in the arts of combat apply directly to living. In
tonight’s class, we practiced
“riding the energy” of the attack. This isn’t a concept I
want to go deeply into as far as the martial applications, though
I’ve included a low-quality video of the Aikido
demonstration that displays
this concept fairly well.
This concept of “riding the energy” applies directly to dealing with depression too. Instead of resisting what life throws at you, including a chemical imbalance in the brain, one can learn to blend with these circumstances—ride the energy of them—and redirect that energy into a positive outcome. In my case, I recognize I want to change my living situation. Instead of feeling hopeless and consequently begin my negative self-talk, I acknowledge my discomfort as imbalance or disharmony in my life, and take steps to change it. Just this change in thought has already made me feel better, thus making it easier to achieve my goals. What I keep forgetting is to stay aware of my mind, and in control of it. Left unchecked it tends to lead me to unpleasant situations. If I keep training, meditating, and writing, then I’ll keep remembering how to keep my life in check. I’m grateful I have these tools and opportunists to draw on when things start feeling bleak. If you watch the video, I’m the guy getting tossed around for most of it. I wanted to post the video, but WordPress wouldn’t allow it, so I uploaded it to YouTube and provided the link.